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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/487

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483
SCIENCE IN NEWSPAPERS

SCIENCE IN NEWSPAPERS
By Dr. J. A. UDDEN

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

IT is well known that charlatans and fools sometimes exploit the press for their own purposes. Our journalists are often men of chiefly literary training. They may be able to diagnose a case of megalomania among writers of verse and they may know how to identify a literary pirate. But they are not always prepared to detect scientific frauds or able to discern the fallacies of self-hypnotized persons proclaiming new laws in physics or chemistry. It is no wonder that there exists a general distrust among scientific men for "newspaper science."

This condition is to be regretted. The press is a great educational institution in our age. It is an agent that should be enlisted in the service of science to disseminate knowledge among men. The inefficient service of the American press in this direction in the past is, I believe, a natural result of the momentum of social conditions generally. It is to some extent to be ascribed to the tardiness of our educational institutions in responding to changing social conditions. To be more specific: the journalistic profession is recruited from our high schools and colleges. Few students who have taken up scientific subjects in the curriculum seek, or secure, work on newspapers. Language students, young men and women who have spent their time in studying Greek, Latin, modern languages and literature, are more often given such employment. Suitable courses are not always selected by those who train themselves for newspaper writing. They should be able not only to write good English, but they should also possess a large fund of general knowledge, including the elements of natural science, which now enters into our endeavors almost everywhere.

The above statements express a vague feeling which the present writer has entertained for some time. It has been his desire to investigate the basis for this feeling. When recently an opportunity seemed to offer itself for making some observations on the attitude of the press to science, I decided to make use of it. I collected the reports published by the six dailies of Toronto during the meeting of the Twelfth International Geological Congress, last summer. Copies of nearly all of the six local dailies published from the 7th to the 14th of August were secured, and clippings were made of the reports, articles and items touching on the congress or its members.

The text of these clippings contained about 55,500 words. A rough classification of the contents of this text placed the various paragraphs